The fifth- and sixth-grade teacher has been visiting companies all over the region, including Radwell, on a mission to pass on what she learns from business leaders about the workforce to her students in the fall.
WILLINGBORO â€” Joy Dennis drives past Radwell International every day on her way to work as a teacher at Levitt Intermediate School, but she never pictured herself visiting the electronics companyâ€™s headquarters.
But throughout the week, the fifth- and sixth-grade teacher has been visiting businesses all over the region, including Radwell, on a mission to pass on what she learns from business leaders about the workforce to her students. Sheâ€™s one of 18 teachers from South Jersey who are using part of their summer vacation to attend the Summer Institute for Educators, an award-winning program facilitated by the Chamber of Commerce Southern New Jersey.
â€œThis appealed to the values I try to instill in my children â€” thinking about the future, career readiness, finding careers they enjoy,â€ Dennis said. â€œI look forward to telling them about soft skills too. We promote academics and a lot of concrete, tangible abilities in schools, but things like strong communication and working collaboratively are so important.â€
During the three-week program, teachers from Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Gloucester and Salem counties tour 18 top regional companies, participate in three panel discussions, and explore economic concepts and business issues related to workplace readiness, according to the Chamber of Commerce. The teachers are then challenged to develop lesson plans that incorporate these issues into the classroom.
â€œOur goal is to expose educators to the South Jersey business community so they can use this knowledge to better inform and empower their students,â€ Chamber of Commerce Vice President Christina Renna said. â€œThe interactive panel discussions with industry experts, plant and facility tours, and networking with business leaders, truly show teachers how their students can impact business in the future. For many of them, the program is their first glimpse into the business world, and awakens them to what businesses want in their future workforce.â€
The three-week institute has been sponsored by dozens of regional businesses, including Virtua, Wells Fargo, the Rizzieri Aveda School, Campbell Soup, Destination Maternity, the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Five Below and Subaru. Teachers who participate earn 100 hours of professional development credits and receive a stipend of $1,000, along with all materials and transportation to and from tours of businesses, according to the Chamber of Commerce.
Dennis’ participation is also sponsored by Radwell.
â€œItâ€™s exciting. Iâ€™m gushing,â€ Dennis said. “These companies are in our backyards. A lot of us knew them by their location, but we didnâ€™t know what happens behind the walls. To know whatâ€™s happening and have companies host us and thank us for our service, itâ€™s inspiring. I just want to tell students that all these developments are accessible to you.â€
After meeting a panel of human resources professionals this week, she learned that several companies are tailoring their employment to entry-level, unskilled workers and giving them room to grow and advance. Dennis, who said most of her work experience is in urban education, wants to help at-risk youth secure a better future and make them aware of the career options they can pursue.
â€œI want to show kids that when they enter the workforce, they can do something theyâ€™re passionate about,â€ Dennis said. â€œWhen I was growing up, college was heavily promoted, but you can have a fulfilling life in so many different paths.â€